Then and now: UWE Bristol campuses

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Frenchay Campus aerial view 1970s

Our campuses are brimming with memories for hundreds of thousands of alumni, staff and students. They’ve been the backdrops to transformative times in our lives – be that our first time away from home, a move to a new job or city, or a change of direction. 

As well as setting the scene for our changing lives, they themselves have undergone many transformations and developments throughout the years.

Here’s a snapshot of our campuses through time.

Redland Campus

Teacher training in Redland, Bristol began in 1947 when Redland College was opened to fill a teacher shortage post-war. In 1976 both Redland College of Education, the Church of England’s teacher training centre and St Matthias College merged with Bristol Polytechnic to form six major locations: Ashley Down, Bower Ashton, Frenchay, Redland, St Matthias and Unity Street.

Redland College on Redland Hill, circa 1965 (main building, centre, and Malvern House, centre left) demolished in 2003. The St John-Reade Hostel was at Redland Green (bottom right and down a little), and is where the current Redland Green High School is located.

During the subsequent period, successful undergraduate Bachelor of Education courses (primary and secondary) were established alongside CPD and MA courses, as well as postgraduate teacher training routes (PGCEs).

The main Redland College site was built in 1960s and sat between Redland Hill, Durdham Park, Iddesleigh Road and Redland Road. Other nearby buildings provided additional teaching space and student accommodation. Redland Hill House and the Elm Lane / Malvern House buildings were also used for teaching, while a number of converted domestic buildings and the purpose-built St John-Reade Halls of Residence (at Redland Green) provided student accommodation.

Elm House student hostel circa 1969
Belle Vue male hostel on Grove Road in Redland
Redland Hill House (photo from

In 2001 Redland Campus closed and the New Redland Building, now S block opened on Frenchay Campus.

Today the School of Education and Childhood is still based in S block. It’s one of the largest providers of initial teacher training in the region, offering high quality courses in Early Childhood Education, Teacher Training routes in Primary and Secondary Education (undergraduate and postgraduate), as well as Digital Education, Special Needs and Career Development. The Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes include popular MA and doctoral programmes (EdD, IEdD and PhD).

S Block exterior

Glenside Campus

Glenside was built in 1861 but still looks largely unchanged today. The historic buildings juxtapose with the state-of-the-art simulation and virtual training facilities that are housed within.

Originally Bristol’s ‘Lunatic Asylum’, it was later used during the First World War to house wounded soldiers and was renamed Beaufort War Hospital.

Wounded soldiers stand outside Beaufort War Hospital

After the war it returned to housing patients and in 1959 was renamed Glenside Hospital. By 1992 the hospital was closing wards, and over the next three years was phased out, becoming the Avon and Gloucestershire College of Health.

Glenside Hospital after acquisition by UWE Bristol

UWE Bristol acquired the site in 1996 when it joined the College of Health to create the Faculty of Health and Social Care, now known as the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences.

This year, in one of the most ambitious simulation exercises hosted by UWE Bristol to date, a section of a Boeing 747 aircraft was transported onto Glenside Campus and a crash site wreckage was staged.

Students from across the university were involved, including paramedic, nursing, forensic science and filmmaking students. The exercise took nine months of planning and was supported by staff from Avon & Somerset Police, Avon Fire & Rescue Service and South Western Ambulance Service.

Air crash simulation exercise at Glenside Campus

Glenside continues to be a key space for the city’s mental health, now with a focus on making a positive change. Our BSc(Hons) Nursing (Mental Health) focuses on is dedicated to making a positive change in the field, encompassing improving access to healthcare, wellbeing, social inclusion and quality of life. Likewise, Glenside Hospital Museum is dedicated to preserving the buildings and artefacts to shine a light on historic treatments of mental health.

Glenside Campus now offers a wide range of health and social care disciplines.

Bower Ashton Campus

The West of England College of Art was established in 1969 in purpose-built premises at Bower Ashton. It moved from its previous location as the art school of the Royal West of England Academy in Clifton. In 1970 the College became part of Bristol Polytechnic.

Bower Ashton in the 1960’s
Bower Ashton in the 1980’s

By the early 1980s the site contained a theatre, library, exhibition, gallery and studio.

In 2008 Bower Ashton was redeveloped and UWE received an Environmental Award from Bristol Civic Society for the redevelopment. The original campus buildings also saw an upgrade with specialist teaching spaces added for Animation, Photography and Graphic Design.

Bower Ashtons’s 2008 award winning redevelopment
Bower Ashton’s Film Studio

2017 saw the opening of the Film Studios building, housing industry standard production and post production facilities for film making, animation and photography. The Design Studios followed.

The Design Studios

City Campus now connects our teaching and learning with some of the best creative and cultural organisations in Bristol. Our powerhouse of creativity encompasses Bower Ashton and shares three iconic harbourside buildings – Arnolfini, Spike Island and Watershed.

Frenchay campus

Named after the nearby village, Frenchay Campus was purpose-built on former farming land. Construction began in 1973 the doors opened for the first time in 1975.

The building of Frenchay campus 1973-1975
The building of Frenchay campus 1973-1975

Back then the campus was a group of lone standing buildings with very little in the surrounding areas. Professor of Contract Law Adrian Chandler speaking in 2012 recalls,

“There was a feeling of it being intimate, everything around was totally green, cut off from everywhere, traffic was wonderful!”.

Built in 1978 The Octagon in Frenchay has retained its original purpose as a place to serve the cultural, spiritual and social needs of staff and students. A sanctuary, place to reflect, relax and have some quite time of peace, prayer and meditation.

The building of the Octagon 1978
The Octagon in the 2010’s
Frenchay Campus circa early 1990’s
Frenchay’s B block in 2006

Expansion and development of the campus has been constant throughout the years. Most recently the impressive new Bristol Business and Law School opened in 2017 and the new Engineering building, which officially opened in 2021, has won multiple awards.

School of Engineering in 2020
Business and Law School in 2017

Note: For a full timeline, read UWE Bristol’s history webpage.

Remembering St Matthias campus

St Matthias Campus in the 90’s

A resident cat, impressive neo-Gothic architecture and picturesque gardens , St Matthias Campus is fondly remembered.

The buildings first opened in September 1853 as the Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Training School for school mistresses – a pioneering institutions for women’s higher education.  In 1955, it changed it’s name to the College of St Matthias, after the saint to whom the college’s original chapel was dedicated in 1853.

St Matthias Campus in the 2000’s

In 1960 a three-year certificate course was validated by the University of Bristol. Male students were admitted from 1966 and student numbers increased to 800 by 1970. By 1976 St Matthias became part of the Polytechnic’s Faculty of Education, and later, when university status was gained the campus was dedicated almost entirely to the humanities.

The Campus sadly closed to students in 2014. From its opening had taught about 10,000 students.

Where do you fit into the story?

What are your stand-out memories of your time at UWE Bristol? We’d love to hear your stories. Tell us what you’re doing now, share an old photo.

You can get in touch through our memories form or post on social media – tag us and use #30yearsofUWE

Seriously good prizes for a great cause

Play our 30th anniversary prize draw for your chance to win one of 30 fantastic prizes, kindly donated from alumni and the wider UWE Bristol community.

100% of funds raised from ticket sales will go to the UWE Bristol Fund to support Student Hardship Grants.

Buy a ticket and find out more about other ways we’re celebrating 30 years of being a University.

UWE Bristol alumni – quick links

UWE Bristol Alumni homepage

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